Ventura had only allowed five runs in a game once over his first 15 starts this season. The Hillcats hung a five-spot on the board in the second inning alone. Six of the first seven batters in the inning reached safely, including a two-run triple by catcher Braeden Schlehuber. An inning later, Chris Garcia's single sent Edward Salcedo to third and Ventura to the showers. Tyler Sample entered and allowed a run-scoring hit to David Rohm as the Rocks trailed, 6-1.
It marked the first of three separate five-run deficits for Wilmington. That final one was an 8-3 margin when the Rocks erupted for a season-high-tying frame in the seventh. The first five batters reached with hits including two homers and the team cycle in the process. Matt Fields and Brett Eibner launched the bombs, while Juan Graterol's RBI double made it 8-7 and chased reliever Ian Marshall in favor of Blaine Sims.
A fielder's choice reach and a single later, Geulin Beltre, who homered in the first, hit a bases-loaded double that only scored one run. The ball was barely missed by center fielder Mycal Jones, inhibiting Luis Piterson from getting a good jump off second. Whit Merrifield accidentally overran Piterson during the confusion for the inning's first out. Sims (1-2) helped out the Rocks though, as a wild pitch plated Piterson and the Rocks briefly led, 9-8.
In the bottom half of the inning though, Lynchburg took the lead to stay. Sample got the hook with the bases clear and two outs. Nick Graffeo (0-1) entered and gave up consecutive singles to Salcedo and Garcia to tie the game. Bobby Stevens entered to run for Garcia and scored on the play of the game. Rohm grounded the ball to short where Piterson made a clean field and throw, but Fields dropped the ball at first for a crucial error. Stevens never broke stride and scored standing just ahead of Fields' throw to put Lynchburg ahead to stay, 10-9.
Closer Juan Jamie entered for Lynchburg in the eighth and stranded a pair of runners. In the ninth, Beltre appeared to work a leadoff full-count walk. But home plate umpire Rich Gonzalez said Beltre swung at the pitch prompting an argument from Beltre and manager Vance Wilson. During Cheslor Cuthbert's subsequent at-bat, Beltre was ejected for arguing from the dugout. Cuthbert grounded out and Fields struck out looking as Jamie notched his league-leading 17th save.
The three-game set concludes at 7:05 p.m. on Friday night. Right-hander Brooks Pounders (1-2, 5.57) gets the ball for the Blue Rocks against fellow righty Gus Schlosser (8-4, 3.68). Broadcast coverage begins at 6:35 p.m. as studio host Rob Cunningham brings fans the Rocks Report Pre-game Show, presented by Wawa, on 89.7 WGLS-FM and online at wgls.rowan.edu.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
The Blue Rocks are in the midst of facing only divisional foes over a stretch of 13 straight and 17 of 20. The Rocks are 17-34 against Southern Division squads and 18-16 against their brothers in the North.
In the first half, the Blue Rocks scored just 227 runs for a league-low 3.2 runs/game average. Despite playing two seven-inning games and posting a sum of one run between the bookend games of last week, Wilmington has scored 92 runs over its first 15 games of the second stanza for an average of 6.1 runs/game. The team that hit 31 home runs over the 70-game first half, the second-lowest total in the league, has bashed 17 early in the second. The Blue Crew hit a league-worst .231 in the first half, but owns a .278 (147-for-528) contact clip so far this half.
With a season-high-tying three home runs on Thursday, the Rocks' home-road home run split widened all the more. An amazing 43 (90%) of the team's 48 homers have come away from Frawley Stadium. Ten of them have been hit through five games on this road trip.
Wilmington pitching has had a tough road trip. Through five games, it has allowed 41 earned runs over 46 innings for an ERA of 8.02.
Geulin Beltre became the second Wilmington player to receive an ejection this season. Juan Graterol was tossed in the June 17 first-half finale for arguing balls and strikes with home plate man Jeremy Riggs that afternoon.
Brett Eibner fell a triple short of the cycle on the night as he belted his team-leading 11th home run of the season. He is on pace to collect 18 homers on the year, something that has happened once for the franchise since Mike Sweeney hit 18 in 1995. Eibner has hit safely in four straight games, going 7-for-15 (.467) with six extra-base hits and six RBIs. While his average sits at just .204, he owns a .440 slugging percentage.
Yordano Ventura was charged with six runs (five earned) over just 2.2 innings for his second-shortest outing of the year. His ERA rose nearly half a run from 2.81 to 3.30 in his final outing before tossing in Sunday's prestigious Futures Game.